The fifth-ranked Indiana Hoosiers will close out a run of eight straight games in their home state on Friday night, as they play host to the Jacksonville Dolphins.
With just five wins in 12 tries, Jacksonville hasn't quite found its rhythm, as it has yet to win back-to-back games. After losing two straight to South Carolina (91-74) and Wofford (94-52), the Dolphins bounced back at home last Saturday with a 65-53 win over Furman.
Indiana began the year as the nation's top-ranked team, and through the first month of the season it did little to dispute that, winning each of its first nine contests, highlighted by signature triumphs over North Carolina (83-59) and Georgetown (82-72). The Hoosiers suffered their first loss of the season on Dec. 15 in a neutral-court bout with instate rival Butler, 88-86, in overtime, but since then it has recorded two straight blowout victories over Mount Saint Mary's (93-54) and Florida Atlantic (88-52).
The Hoosiers won the only previous matchup with Jacksonville, 69-59, back in December of 1977.
Jacksonville has had a modest offensive output through 12 games, shooting 42 percent from the floor in averaging 67.6 ppg, but the biggest reason for its inconsistencies has been its shaky play at the defensive end as it allows foes to net more than 71 ppg on 45.4 percent shooting. The script was flipped in its latest win however, as the team held Furman to 33.9 percent accuracy from the field in the 12-point victory. Leading the way for the Dolphins was Jarvis Haywood, who tallied 16 points and nine rebounds, while Dylan Fritsch (14 points) and Kordario Fleming (10 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) also has productive games. On the season, Haywood scores 11.2 ppg to pace the squad. Keith McDougald is the only other player to score in double figures with 10.0 ppg, but he has missed the last two games due to injury. Jacksonville relies on a deep rotation, as 11 guys average at least 11 minutes per game.
Indiana has validated its status as one of the nation's elite teams this season by logging lofty percentages from the field (.521) and from beyond the arc (.419), while leading the nation in both scoring offense (89.1 ppg) and scoring margin (plus-29.8). The dominance continued for the Hoosiers in their 36-point romp over FAU, as they shot 50.9 percent from the field and connected on all but one of their 27 free throw attempts. Cody Zeller saw just 22 minutes in the blowout, but he made every one of them count with 24 points. Christian Watford netted 17 points, Victor Oladipo added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Jordan Hulls chipped in 10 points in the triumph. The balanced effort is nothing new for IU, which has five players averaging in double figures. Zeller (16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Oladipo (13.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) have been fantastic from the field, as each make greater than 62 percent of his total shots. Watford (12.8 ppg) and Hulls (11.1 ppg) are both deadly from 3-point range, combining for 48 treys at a 50 percent clip. Will Sheehey has been a solid sixth-man with 12.3 ppg.